The UKIE-led, Next Gen Skills Campaign, today (11 April 2012) called the government to work with industry to set out a ‘route map’ to revolutionise how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Computer Science is taught in schools. This plan of action involves a new vision for Computer Science as a rigorous subject in its own right; incorporation of Computer Science in the English Baccalautreate; and investment in a new generation of Computer Science teachers.
The Next Gen Skills campaign’s submission to the government’s consultation on the ICT curriculum, argues that children should be taught the principles of ICT and Computer Science from primary school age onward, and later have the opportunity to specialise in Computer Science if they wish. Computer Science should be recognised as a fully-fledged scientific subject, to be taught in school on a par with other scientific subjects. Like the other sciences, it should have a practical as well as a conceptual aspect and can be taught alongside compatible subjects like Maths, Physics, Art or Design.
Next Gen Skills firmly believes that the Department of Education should minimise the risk of some schools misinterpreting the removal of the established Programme of Study to stage a ‘tactical retreat’ from ICT, to the detriment of Computer Science and digital skills as a whole.
The Next Gen Skills consultation response states: “We are particularly concerned that without a clear vision on Computer Science from Primary school onwards this could occur in the period between the withdrawal of the Programme of Study in September 2012 and the introduction of the new National Curriculum in September 2014. There is some evidence from the academy sector that where schools have the opportunity to choose not to provide the ICT Programme of Study, the most common change is to stop providing ICT or design technology at Key Stage 4 – using time for modern languages and, only in some cases, Computer Science.” Any uncertainty caused by the removal of statutory assessments and attainment targets must be addressed by the ‘Route Map’ agreed with industry, professional bodies and universities and schools.
Key Next Gen recommendations
- 1. Next Gen Skills agrees that the current ICT Programme of Study, statutory attainment targets and KS3 assessment arrangements should be replaced in order to introduce a new curriculum which includes Computer Science. While the replacement of the current Programme of Study is supported, the dis-application of the Programme of Study and Attainment Targets carries potential risks which must be addressed by Government, industry and educators in response to this consultation.
- 2. HM Government should set out a Vision for Computer Science, akin to the ambition in the Henley report on Music, outlining the proper role for government and industry in achieving outcomes:
“Every child should learn the concepts and principles of Information Technology and Computer Science from primary school age onwards, and later to specialise in Computer Science if they wish.”
- 3. If the statutory Programme of Study and Assessment is dis-applied then Department for Education (DfE) must build assurance by establishing a short, medium and long term ‘Route Map’ to Computer Science from September 2012 to September 2014 and beyond. The Route Map, developed with industry, should include the following key principles:
- - Computer Science should be (re) established as a rigorous, high-status school subject discipline, on a par with Maths, Physics, or History.
- - The importance of Computer Science should be recognised by incorporation within the English Baccalaureate.
- - With industry, professional bodies, schools and universities the DfE should set target ambition for Computer Science in schools by 2015 (e.g. half of all schools teaching Computer Science in three years).
- - This goal should be pursued with industry through both formal channels (the school curriculum and qualifications) and informal ones (e.g. after school clubs, hack spaces, hobbyist learning).
- - Adequate investment should be secured to train / re-train a new generation of Computer Science teachers.
- - Introduce benchmarking of new Computer Science courses against agreed Fundamental Principles developed with professional bodies, industry, universities and schools. This would enable educational outcomes from new Computer Science curricula to be rigorously evaluated.
- - Create a national Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence to co-ordinate resources between schools, industry, professional bodies and universities. Such a body could assist DfE on benchmarking and improvement along the lines of similar structures in Mathematics or where Computer Science programs have been successfully implemented, e.g. Israel.
The full Next Gen Skills submission to the government’s ICT Curriculum Consultation can be found here.
Ian Livingstone OBE, chair of the Next Gen Skills campaign, said:
“The Next Gen report set out how we can transform the UK once again into the world leader for providing digital natives that have the skillsets across a wide variety of industry sectors including but not limited to marketing and communications agencies, mobile hardware and software providers, technical and digital agencies, broadcast providers and the video games and visual effects industries. Since the launch of the Next Gen Skills campaign in November 2011, the relevance of our campaign has been grasped even further afield, from design through to advanced manufacturing, electronic engineering and pharmaceuticals. We believe that increasing the number and quality of computer science graduates is now fundamental to promoting growth in our hi-tech economy.
“It is crucial that government, industry and educators alike share this common purpose and work together to implement policies which makes this a reality. There is an opportunity to re-lay the foundations of Computer Science in schools and help transform the futures of the next generation of young creatives, scientists and engineers – putting the UK at the front of global technology.
We need to ensure that the flow of high calibre talent from education to industry is enhanced and not allowed to decline any further. For this to happen we need real intervention in schools, and welcome the proposed changes to the ICT curriculum, subject to a Route Map for change. There is now a strong argument for Computer Science to be a fourth science on the English Baccalaureate, ensuring it is seen as a discipline in its own right – as it is in other countries.”
- ENDS -
Notes to editors:
- The consultation response is the product of engagement with our campaign members from January to April 2012 and a consultation seminar with head teachers and ICT teachers on 20th March run in conjunction with The Education Foundation (referred to below as “the Curriculum Group”). Our response has been developed in conversation with other campaign members who have also submitted individually. We have also reflected the major contribution of the Royal Society report in January 2012 (Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools), especially with regard to the issue of teacher training and support, and evidence from other countries, notably Israel.
- Secretary of State Michael Gove’s speech to BETT launching the consultation on 11 January can be found here: http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/speeches/a00201868/michael-gove-speech-at-the-bett-show-2012